Disclaimer: The opinions presented in this argument do not represent that of the Source Gaming team but that of just the author.
In Super Smash Bros Brawl, a new collectible was introduced alongside the trophies. These were stickers which showed off Nintendo’s artwork in comparison to the 3D models found in trophies. They also had a practical use, being used to create funny pictures, just like the trophies, but also to power up the characters used in the Subspace Emissary. Unfortunately, stickers were cut in Super Smash Bros 4 and I view this as a bad thing. Stickers had their problems in Brawl but I think their inclusion benefited the series and today I am going to explain why they came about and argue for their return.
The original Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64 was the first character fighter Nintendo had made. It drew in a bunch of their different IPs and pitted them against each other however, Sakurai and his team could not assume every single player would know every single fighter in the game. Characters like Ness who originated in a niche franchise like Earthbound, a series never even released in Europe, meant that Nintendo ran the risk of not having players get attached to the characters. People would naturally gravitate towards Mario and Donkey Kong, with Ness and Captain Falcon being ignored. To alleviate this, Sakurai included character bios for each of the fighters. This way, anyone who was unfamiliar with a character could read up on him within game, remember that this was time before internet was very mainstream. Fast forward to Super Smash Bros. Melee and the character bios had been upgraded. Now, they appeared as trophies and they covered more than just the playable fighters. The trophies not only acted as a collectible for the game, something small to have the players unlock and strive to get, but they allowed Sakurai to show off all of Nintendo’s history, even the characters and series’ that would otherwise be unable to have fighters included.
Trophies were naturally very popular, after all who did not dream of having collectible figures of Nintendo’s characters (‘cough’amiibo’cough’). The trophies were 3D models and during the time of Super Smash Bros Melee there had only been the N64 and early GameCube where 3D Nintendo models could be taken from. This meant that in Melee, the majority of the trophies were all brand new 3D models made for the game. With the trophy collection growing ever larger, Nintendo would have to put more effort into making 3D models and, despite personally loving the trophy feature, this was not the place to spending lots of resources. Instead, the team decided to make the trophies using the more logical method – taking already existing models of characters and re purposing them for the new game. This is why all the fighters in Brawl have all their trophies using their in-game models rather than a new one like in Melee. However, this came with a drawback. Not all of Nintendo’s IP had 3D models and so Brawl so a pulling away from the classic retro Nintendo representation in characters like Donbe & Hikari, and Ayumi Tachibana in favour of newer characters from games in 3D like Chibi-Robo and Ashley Mizuki Robbins. This is not to say Nintendo did not make any new models because they did, but the amount of new models greatly decreased between the two games.
This new and more cost effective direction to take the Trophies allowed more of them to be included but prevented fan favorites from ever getting to reappear again. This is where stickers come in. Thanks to stickers being 2D in nature, a 3D model was not required. The stickers instead used official Nintendo Artwork and sprites that covered a variety of games. We can see this in the inclusion of some stickers that would never have been able to be trophies with this new development model. This is beneficial as it means more of Nintendo’s history gets the chance to be represented within the Super Smash Bros franchise and the time to add them is minor as they did not include full on bios like the trophies. The latter reason also allowed for multiple stickers of the same character to appear, which really represented the characters appearance and evolution throughout the series history in a way that trophies cannot.
Unfortunately stickers had their own problems and did not return for Super Smash Bros for Wii U & 3DS. The actual function of the stickers as stat boosts was replaced by the generic Equipment found when making custom fighters so from a gameplay standpoint, stickers were unneeded. In Super Smash Bros Brawl, stickers were numerous and far more obnoxious to get than the trophies were. The sticker pick-up was generic and you couldn’t tell if you got a sticker you needed until after you beat a campaign level, as only the campaign could stickers be unlocked. All of this unnecessary tediousness made the stickers unpopular when compared to the trophies, and with the ever increasing amount of trophies, adding more collectibles might make it too cumbersome for some. This seems to be why stickers were removed but in all honesty, they weren’t removed at all, just made worse.
As previously stated, the actual functions of the stickers got absorbed by the equipment for customs but along with this, all of the issues that the stickers had went along with it. You don’t know what equipment you are going to get until after you do a mission and you a very liable for repeats. Add to the fact that the equipment is just as numerous and you can see that the only difference between the two apart from name is that the equipment has had all of that Nintendo love stripped out of it. This makes the player care a lot less for the equipment than they would for the sticker. If they are going to essentially keep stickers in through the equipment then they may as well have kept them as stickers. The only reason I can think of for having the Nintendo aspect removed is time. There was not enough time to implement all the individual artwork and so it was replaced with a generic picture that nobody cared for.
My reason for writing this article was to say why I think stickers should return, not for a functional reason but for a Nintendo reason. Sticker’s allowed Nintendo to show off more of their history and more if their IP. They really helped to add to the idea that the Super Smash Bros franchise is a celebration of Nintendo and gaming in general. It did not require a lot of resources and was a good way to please fans. In the future, if Nintendo can make stickers easier to get then I think all of their problems would be sorted. They can just replace equipment, just like equipment replaced them.